Monday, 19 August 2019

Some Mystery Figures....Part 1

The two figures on the left are obviously dismounted dragoons - there are around two dozen of the chap at the top and a dozen of the fellow on the bottom. Three of the standard bearer and the painted chap is one of two dozen with what looks like some Hinchliffe command figures.

The rear view. The painted chap I have a feeling may well be a Tradition figures but I am really not sure.

I mentioned previously that I am now in the latter stages of sorting out Eric's unpainted late 17th and 18th century collection. What is left - and there is still three crates worth! - falls into the 'of unknown origin' category and so I am asking readers of the blog for help in identifying them.

I rather like the standard bearer but painting that flag would be the devil's own job! The muskets/carbines the two dragoons are using are very 'chunky' but they are useful figures all the same.

If anyone has any clues about the above - there will more mystery figures to follow for sure - please let me know.

Many thanks in advance.

Friday, 16 August 2019

An 18th Century Interlude

The Worthington Games/PSC version of Hold the Line and not that by Toto or Maximus Decimus Meridius....

Now that I am coming to the end of the great 'Late 17th and 18th century unpainted figures disposal' I have, rather unsurprisingly perhaps, been thinking about wargames set in the period. I suppose that seeing all the models Eric had amassed brought back some very happy memories of games large and small (mostly the former if truth be told!) and I would be less than honest if said that the process of sorting all these goodies out had been less than inspiring.

There is something about fighting tabletop battles set in the 18th century. I suppose for me it was cumulative effects of cutting my wargaming teeth on Charge! or The Wargame back in the early 1970s and of taking part in a number of Eric-inspired epic games when I first moved to London. With its penchant for colourful and outlandish uniforms and modest sized armies it seemed like the perfect choice for gaming on the tabletop and a good subject for study. The study portion I have enjoyed immensely but being a slightly less than enthusiastic painter I have always ducked raising model armies in the period – the effort required being far beyond my usual attention span! Many years ago I did start painting a 25mm Swedish force for the Seven Years War using Minifigs but, like far too many of my bright ideas, it fell rather ignominiously by the wayside.

Fast forward from those early days and I am still a reluctant figure painter but the hankering for something 18th century is still there. For sure I flirted with tackling something from the figures available from Eric’s collection but the stamina required evaporated quickly. For a variety of reasons my interests tend to veer away from the mainstream European wars so things like the ’45, the French and Indian War, the War in India or the American Revolution have circled my consciousness in a kind of ‘wargaming holding pattern’.

Of the conflicts mentioned the two that would be most gameable for me are both of the American Wars which is strange given that I had made a conscious decision some years ago to leave this particular theatre behind! In a roundabout way my ACW project has given the inspiration and impetus to work backwards to the Revolution and the earlier French and Indian War. Strangely enough the war of 1812 – with the exception of the naval dimension – has never really ‘done it’ for me which is rather ironic when you consider the size of the forces involved!

The latest acquisition to the Crook collection is a copy of the Worthington Games/PSC game Hold the Line which covers the American Revolution – 34 battles from it in fact. There is a supplement which covers the French and Indian War which I currently have on order.

The French and Indian War Expansion - ideal for those Last of the Mohican moments.

For the uninitiated the Hold the Line series of games are very similar to Command and Colours but do not use command cards or special dice. This version of Hold the Line includes 20mm scaled plastic figures, rather like Battle Cry or Memoir ’44. For all intents and purposes the rules are very similar to those that I routinely used with the block armies and that were developed by Bob Cordery before the Portable Wargame – MoB or Memoir of Battle.

Some of the figures from the base game

The game contains a goodly number of 20mm plastic figures moulded in red for the British and Blue for the Americans. The French and Indian expansion includes white moulded French and green moulded woodland Indians and Roger's Rangers. There are also optional Hessian grenadiers and Highlanders. The figures are what I call 'board game based upon' rather than uber detailed and historically accurate miniatures but they are absolutely fine. There is a degree of plastic warping but nothing that the old hot and cold water trick could not put right.

Note the woodland Indian figure and the kneeling Ranger. The other figures are the same as for the Americans from the base game.

One would only need to add some command figures and gun crews and one would the basis for a pretty good set up for the period. For my own part I would not bother differentiating between the earlier and later period as far as uniforms are concerned - in fact the French figures are the same as that used for the Americans only moulded in white.

As a long term plan it would be a fun idea to replace the plastic figures with Spencer Smith 30mm figures from there 18th century range. They produce all the types I would be likely to need and with some appropriate paint conversions all the forces could be replicated in my 'based upon' style. In the meantime though I shall look forward to trying the game out.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Eric's 18th Century Lead Mountain - Approaching the Summit

Ignoring the mounted one piece castings (Hinchliffe) and the bottom row of figures (RSM) does anyone have any clue as to the identity of the standard bearers along the top of the picture?

I am now down to around three crates of figures from Eric's late 17th and 18th century collection - and this is where things start to get a little interesting!

Ignoring the top two rows (RSM) of figures I am keen to identify the manufacturer of the bottom three rows of figures. They are dismounted cavalry and I have a feeling they may possibly be RAFM but I am really not sure.

I have identified most of the manufacturers that Eric used but there are some figures left that have thus far defied all attempts for me to identify them. When Eric organised his figures into units he always filed the underside of the models base for basing purposes. Naturally this is where most figure manufacturers stamp the identity code and even a version of the company logo. None of the figures above have any identifying marks (except where noted).

I rather like the mounted one piece castings that Hinchliffe produced but these, as are the rest of the figures depicted above, are still for disposal.

If any readers of my blog have any clues about the identity of the figures mentioned please let me know - I suspect that this will not be the first time I write such a blog entry either!

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Eric and his Imagi-nation Armies....Part 1

Indian native spearmen of which there are two such units. Note the mix of figures for the command group - Eric often used figures from other ranges or manufacturers. The shields are drawing pins and are fixed into the figures. Eric would use any suitable box for storing his unpainted units!

Now that the disposal of  the 18th century unpainted figure component of Eric's collection is approaching its final stages (thank the maker!) I thought it might be of interest to shed a little light on what Eric did and why. The former is quite easy but the later we will never know and so a degree of speculation or downright guesswork is involved.

Within the collection there were two definite imagi-nations in the shape of the Kingdom of Umbriago and the Electorate of Bustenberg. I will describe these in more detail in separate blog posts As there is another force I want to highlight. This particular army is of interest in that it really showcases Eric's powers of improvisation at their best!

Eric had organised a number of units for what was described as an Eastern army of the 18th century. My feeling is that it was intended to be some kind of quasi-Mughal Indian or Princes army - to be used for the latter part of the 18th century. Naturally I have no way of confirming this and whilst the army contains plenty of infantry and a smattering of cavalry there are no elephants or other exotica. I would stake my house on the fact that if Eric had ever picked this army again in earnest then Elephants, rocket troops and camel mounted artillery would have been added, not to mention some enormous siege type guns. I have taken pictures of the units he had assembled - mostly old Minifigs - and straight away you can see that he would happily press into service figures that would have the historical purist reaching for their smelling salts or fortifying glass of a strong spirit!

Native pikemen - again notice the mixed command group

An elite pike and shot bodyguard unit. The drummers are from the Minifigs Turkish range 

A native lancer regiment featuring assorted Arab style cavalry

Peasant spear and bow armed levy including some converted rocket firing troops. Most of these are from the ancient Indian range

Bodyguard gunners converted from the pikeman figure in the bodyguard unit above

Silladar cavalry representing the commander and his immediate retinue

Native light cavalry

The diversity of figures used - many of the above are from the various ancient ranges that Minifigs produced - may seem a little quaint nowadays but once everything had been painted and based and the inevitable back story added (Eric was a great one for this) the whole then became a coherent entity. Originally the above collection also featured a unit each of Afghan and Ansar riflemen and there is also another cavalry unit as well as some extra gunners.

It is fascinating to speculate what plans Eric had for this particular collection although we will never know for sure. My feeling is that having this force would enable Eric to use it both as an ally or enemy for both his British and French collections.

One thing is for sure though. The army would develop its own personality reinforced with the inventiveness, tongue in cheek humour and story telling ability of its creator.

Monday, 12 August 2019

The Weekly Sitrep....Number 41

20mm WW2 German cavalry and artillery support from the collection of Eric Knowles

The great sort out of Eric's collection continues with the recently delivered 20mm WW2 collection taking centre stage although the 18th century has not been forgotten.

Both the Germans and the Russians contained a portion of painted figures - you may recall my mentioning that this has been a feature of Eric's WW2 collection - with have been separated out and will be heading to their new home in due course. Eric seemed to used units as 'works in progress' so it appears to be quite common for him to have a box of figures or vehicles etc with painted and unpainted elements housed together. The opposite was true for the 18th century kit as all the unpainted stuff was kept away from what was ready to use. Thinking about it there is a kind of logic in this in that most WW2 units tend to be smaller and more sub unit focused than the regiments of the 18th century. Adding a platoon here or there for a WW2 set up - especially in the Rapid Fire world - is usually a darned sight easier that whole companies or battalions!

In this part of the collection (bearing in mind this is probably only quarter of the whole thing) Eric had organised a late war German Fortress formation, complete with support, a German cavalry unit that could operate throughout the war, a horde of Russians (including Partisans) that could serve at either end of the war including support, an American late war armoured infantry unit with support and finally a late war Japanese infantry formation. In each case there are no model guns or vehicles as these were organised separately by Eric and are probably in with the models I have yet to receive.

A rather portly German NCO....

....and the 'real' thing portrayed by Gert Frobe in the D Day epic, the Longest Day.

The painted cavalry you see in the picture above has roughly the same again unpainted and still in unit sized bags. As mentioned they will be heading off to their new home in due course. Coincidentally, at least as far as the figure you above is concerned, I had been watching The Longest Day over the course of last week in which Gert 'Goldfinger' Frobe appeared and upon whom the rather portly NCO is modelled on. Bob Cordery also mentioned that this figure was based on the German actor and that it had been used in numerous games of Megablitz as a supply marker.

I rather like the infantry guns Eric used as well for the supporting artillery.

Friday, 9 August 2019

Raventhorpe 20mm WW2 Figures and Rapid Fire

I have no way of knowing for sure but I believe that Eric used these rules for his WW2 games. Going by the unit organisations I have seen this would be a good shout.

Not from Eric's collection but the above is indicative of the style of Raventhorpe figures.

I had a quick sort out of the three crates of figures from Bill which represent some of Eric's unpainted WW2 collection. In truth what there is could easily fill two crates but it is easier to keep the three for reasons that I will explain. I have a crate full of Japanese for the Burma campaign, a crate of late war Americans - many of which are in greatcoats - and a crate that has both Germans and Russians. Again, a lot of the Germans and Russians are sporting greatcoats.

In true Eric tradition the figures had been organised into units and my theory is that Rapid Fire were his rules of choice for the period as the unit organisations look very familiar. For the most part the Germans have been designated by Eric as fortress troops but there is no reason why they could not be used for anything else. There are plenty of infantry support weapons, HMG, LMGs, Mortars and infantry anti tank weaponry as well as command.

There is a smattering of Wargames Foundry figures but an awful lot of the collection appears to be from Raventhorpe Miniatures. I rather like these as they are true 20mm and have a basic charm about them.

I hope to finish sorting these out properly over the weekend so that the great disposal can begin - mercifully at this stage it will not be quite as onerous as the 18th century collection!

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Return to Madasahatta and a question....

Politically correct it most certainly is not - but it is a cracking read and a magnificent source of inspiration for designing one's own campaigns

One of the things that Bill and I discussed at length over the course of his last visit and numerous phone calls was the fate of Eric's collection for the legendary Madasahatta campaign - elements of which have been recorded for posterity by Bob Cordery. The above is available from Amazon and Lulu so check out Bob's blog to find out more.

Bill has been a little undecided about this part of his father's collection - should he keep it or should it go? Well after the aforementioned discussions he has finally decided the best course of action and that is that I shall be the custodian of the collection and hold the same in trust. This will include not only the painted elements of the army but also some of the custom built terrain that Eric used. At this stage all I need to do is to sort out the requisite storage space in the man cave prior to taking delivery.

Bill believes that not all the collection is in his hands, raising the tantalising question of where the rest of it may be. Only once he has extricated the models from the umpteen boxes in his loft will he have a clear idea of what remains. I recall seeing some unpainted models that had been earmarked for some of the native elements that featured in the campaign when Bill first showed me the horsebox full of material late last year. I hope that sufficient is left to be able to be used in some way - we have no idea what figures he used although as I recall the British may have been late Colonial types rather than wearing shorts. We shall see comes to pass and naturally I will post on the blog in due course.

I am hugely honoured to be taking custody of this collection as it represents a piece of my personal and wargaming history (and would for a good few others if truth be told) and it was hugely influential on how I try to do what I do in my games.

Large 25mm (closer to 30mm in fact) and exquisitely detailed

The question part of the title of this post refers to the rather lovely figures you see above. Eric raised a couple of infantry regiments of these, complete with command and grenadiers, and also a rather nice mounted officer that is a one piece casting. I believe these may well have been Hinchliffe (Connoisseur?)  originally and eventually morphed into RSM.

I shall be undertaking a full count over the weekend and so will get some pictures of the rest of the figures and the all important headcount.

If anyone can confirm who these are by I would be grateful.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

20mm WW2 and other Great Escapes....

Foundry 20mm WW2 Russian Infantry - there are rather a lot of them!

Yesterday evening saw the arrival at Chez Crook of Bill Knowles, driving a BMW X5 filled to the roof with part of Eric's 20mm WW2 collection. I say part as Bill reckons he has another car full of the stuff!

Very early in the unpacking process it became quite obvious that Eric had adopted a slightly different approach with this collection compared to his 18th century armies - and it was easy to see why.

For sure there were boxes solely of unpainted figures - plenty of Foundry in evidence - but in many cases there were units that were being expanded so there was often a usable painted portion with the unpainted figures needed to complete the unit in the same box. When we realised this a rethink was needed. For his 18th century kit Eric kept the unpainted models separate whilst the WW2 seemed to be very much a work in progress. Needless to say though, everything about the WW2 collection is on the usual 'Eric' scale of 'overwhelmingness!'

With vehicles and artillery of suitable 'Eric' proportions the whole lot takes up a great deal of space and as I am limited in that respect it meant that I was only able to take three crates of unpainted figures at this stage. A cursory glance shows an awful lot of 1941 Russians (including partisans) as well plentiful Japanese opposition for the as yet unlocated 14th army (in which Eric served).

A look at the painted part (which was in effect some three quarters of the car load) confirmed a number of things. The figures are painted in a 'block colour, no shading/highlighting or flocked base' fashion Similarly the vehicles and artillery (of which there is a prodigious quantity) are all flat colours. The vehicles are a mixture of plastic, metal, resin and die cast offerings. One thing I noticed was that Eric had used a number of Ledo 'Days Gone By' 1920/30 vehicles that had been drafted into the German Army by the simple expedient of a coat of overall panzer grey and the addition of a cross here (or should I say Heer....) and there.

In terms of the periods covered it seems that Eric went for early and late war forces. For the former there are Belgians, Germans including quite a few Fallschirmjager. At this stage I do not know what else for the Western front there is although I suspect that there are other Germans at the very least. There were quite a few unpainted Russians for 1941 so I can only assume that he planned to tackle this at some point. The late war kit included British, American and Polish paratroopers and rather a lot of Germans including a Luftwaffe field division. There are American and British tanks aplenty - loads of vehicles seems to be the order of the day across the whole collection - and the selection for the German army ranges from a Jagdtiger down to Panzer 1s and all points of the compass in between.

There is massive amount of potential with this collection. The component parts could be used in their own right or as the basis for a specific campaign or campaigns.

In the meantime I will sort through the unpainted figures I have and will post the details of what I find in due course.

Monday, 5 August 2019

The Weekly Sitrep....Number 40

A less than inspiring looking cover (the boards are slightly warped as well as the water staining) but what can it be? Read on to find out....

A rather more productive week than of late - and a couple of boot sale bargains as well!

The Minifigs 25mm Marlburian collection is now listed on eBay on a 'but it now' basis but I will be amending the listing to separate out the individual units. I have seen similar styles of listing elsewhere and as soon as I have found out how to do it I will amend the same. I will be happy to sell off individual units so if you see anything of interest or have any questions let me know.

The listing can be found as follows:

Minifigs 25mm Marlburian Figures

I will be taking delivery of Eric's unpainted 20mm WW2 collection this evening - around some eight crates worth - so will be busy over the next few weeks sorting it all out. Once I have a handle on the scope and scale of the collection I will of course post to the blog. Bill reckons that a large portion f the infantry is Wargames Foundry which makes a degree of sense as they launched their 20mm range around the time that Eric ventured into WW2 in an Eric way i.e., substantially! As well as infantry there are vehicles (mostly metal with some resin types) and artillery so it will be interesting to see what he has. If the thoroughness of his late 17th and 18th century collections are anything to go by then this will be a pretty comprehensive set up.

Research for the pirate project continues and I think I am pretty close to finalising the land side. I intend using the figures for what I like to think are 'narrative skirmish' games. I envisage using around 40 to 50 figures a game although on occasion it will scale upwards depending on the scenario I am gaming. The plan is to have character figures operating individually whilst the rank and file typically run around in units. I shall be attending SELWG and hope that Foundry will be there as I should be able to get the extra figures I need to complete the collection.

We visited our local boot sale yesterday and I managed to come away with a couple of bargains. To be honest pickings have been very slim this year so I was very pleased to pick up a brand new leather case for my Kindle for £1 and a copy of the book you see above. To be honest the book itself is in what would be called at best a reading copy or else acceptable as it is a little ragged around the edges. However that is a minor consideration as not only is it possible to obtain a digital copy but it is in print courtesy of the Folio Society.

The opening pages - note the very serious looking Frenchman....

The Buccaneers of America by Alexandre Exquemelin is one of the most important sources for the activities of pirates in the 17th century. This is something that will be really useful for my project and so the 50p I paid for it is certainly money well spent. I have seen far better Folio Society editions on eBay for quite modest amounts so will look to replace this copy in due course.

Friday, 2 August 2019

"A Pirating we will go!"

The rules look pretty good and the supporting figure range is exquisite. I may dip into this for the odd personality figure but to be honest the Foundry range covers pretty much everything I am likely to need.

As the former Prime Minister Harold Wilson famously said back in 1964, "A week is a long time in politics" - I do not believe he was a wargamer but if he was then he could have also easily have said that, "A week is a long time in wargaming." You may be forgiven for thinking that I am suddenly knee deep in Conquistadors and busily planning what opposition I shall be using for the Portuguese - this is partially true - but there is of course another side to the coin, or rather another side of the collection I took delivery of.

Pirates. In truth the pirates will see the light of day before anything 16th century comes along (assuming I have not gotten bored and disposed of them - one never knows!) and so I have been spending some time thinking about how I am going to tackle this from the perspective of forces raised and how I will use them. The former I have largely settled on and unsurprisingly it will entail some modest expenditure but the latter has given me some wonderful choices in respect of the rules I will be using.

To begin with all the figures will be individually based which opens up using the Rampant series by Dan Mersey. There is also the option of using Pieces of Eight by Peter Pig but replacing the 15 mm multiple figure bases with single 28 mm models. There is another set of rules I want to take a look and these are On the Seven Seas by Chris Peers, published by Osprey.

I had heard of Blood and Plunder but had not gotten around to taking a look at it. This oversight has now been rectified! The book is a large A4 sized hardback of 164 pages. There is plenty of eye candy in support of their figure range as well some welcome historical detail. An entertaining game can be had with a couple of dozen or so figures a side which is ideal for me. Another option for the period would be to take a look at Donnybrook which I know is a particular favourite of the late 17th century chapter of the infamous Postie's Rejects (he will know who I mean!).

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

"Pen in one hand, a sword in the other"

The latest addition to the library by Roger Crowley who is fast becoming one of my favourite historical writers.

The title of this post is how Roger Crowley described the Portuguese acquisition of an empire based around the Indian Ocean. I will not offer any explanation as to why - you will need to read the book - but it sums up the overall impact they had as a result of their exploration and travels across the Indian Ocean and into East Asia. I purchased the above (and yes, there is also an Osprey title that is on the 'to get' list) for background to the El Dorado collection I have now taken delivery of. Whilst the idea of Aztecs and Tlaxcalans has a certain appeal - what I would call the traditional Conquistador approach - I am fast coming to the conclusion that figures I have would be better off as Portuguese, simply because the opposition is far more diverse. I shall enjoy reading this and indeed, may even acquire a digital version.

A selection of figures from the Foundry El Dorado range

The El Dorado range by Wargames Foundry is quite delightful and the selection I have is pretty much complete for what I would need. All I need to do is to think about the opposition and so I hope that Crowley's book will help with my decision. 

Monday, 29 July 2019

The Weekly Sitrep....Number 39

The Minifigs Sitrep

Not quite "Eleven miles in this disastrous heat" (you can a point if you know what film that is from) but after a week of stifling temperatures and the associated lethargy it was a relief to finally be able to get back to the much cooler man cave at the weekend.

I had a number of things to tend to and am happy to say that I made a reasonable amount of progress.

To begin with the 30mm Spencer Smith ACW figures are now off their multiple bases and as soon as the remainder are available I will be able to rebase them all ready for action. I also had a check on my scratch building supplies in readiness for making the ships to accompany them and have identified a couple of shortfalls which I need to address - nothing major but I am glad I spotted it sooner rather than later.

I was also able to start the packing exercise for the Minifigs Seven Years War collection before it heads off to its new home. This is a big undertaking even allowing for the fact that half of it has already gone. I was also able to list and photograph all of the Minifigs Marlburians and so I thought it might be of interest to share the list with you.

Eric routinely mixed figures in his units and also used horses from other manufacturers on occasion. He was also fond of command groups and often converted junior officers and NCOs to the extent that a typical infantry unit (averaging anything from twelve to forty eight figures) would often field a command group comprising a quarter of the units overall strength. Cavalry units were not quite so bad and he often used three or four figures with a total strength of anything between twelve or twenty four figures. Very early on in the process I agreed with Bill that units were not to be broken up although this has proven necessary with things like gun crews. Eric liked large gun crews and so these would range from three figures at the battalion gun level through to twelve or even more figures for siege artillery.

The list of Marlburian figures uses the unit identifications that Eric employed although for convenience I have lumped gun crews together. It is worth pointing out that this list is probably around half the size of the Seven Years War collection and I hope it will give you some idea of the scale of the undertaking. I have often spoken about x number of crates but this list will show a part of what I have been dealing with.


1. Hussar Regiment Rattsky - 18 mounted
2. Hussar Regiment Versailles - 18 mounted
3. Infantry Regiment Soissonais - 28 foot
4. Infantry Regiment Touraine - 28 foot
5. Engineers - 13 foot


6. Gunners - 53 foot
7. Engineers - 12 foot


8. Infantry Regiment Prins Georgs - 37 foot
9. Infantry Regiment Prins Karls - 37 foot
10. Greandiers - 34 foot
11. Gunners - 27 foot
12. Grenadiers (British) - 44 foot
13. Garde du Corps - 16 mounted


14. Infantry Regiment Moltke - 35 foot
15. Infantry Regiment Hech und Deutschmeister - 35 foot
16. Infantry Regiment Arenberg - 35 foot
17. Infantry Regiment Merci - 35 foot
18. Grenadiers - 24 foot
19. Infantry in Greatcoats - 38 foot
20. Gunners - 28 foot


21. Grenadiers - 35 foot

Brandenburg Prussia

22 Garde du Corps - 18 mounted


23. Cuirassiers Haraucourt - 18 mounted
24. Cuirassiers Beavau - 18 mounted


25. Sipahis of the Porte - 36 mounted
26. Tartar Horse Archers - 18 mounted
27. Janissary Shot - 25 foot
28. Janissary Command and Pike - 53 foot
29. Gunners - 32 foot
30. Command - 21 foot
31. Engineers - 32 foot
32. Tartar light horse - 14 mounted
33. Tartar light horse - 15 mounted
34. Jezzailachies (line Infantry) - 52 foot


35. Cuirassiers - 14 mounted
36. Cuirassiers - 15 mounted
37. Ukrainian Cossacks - 14 mounted, 11 foot
38. Lisowski Cossacks - 14 mounted
39. Militia - 33 foot
40. Gunners - 18 foot
41. Frontier Irregulars - 22 foot

It is perhaps worth pointing out that what is listed above is merely the Minifigs component of the respective forces mentioned. The additional units making up the respective forces consisted of Foundry, Essex, Dixon, Hinchliffe and even the odd Higgins/Hinton Hunt. With the possible exception of the Turks (even they would need artillery) all of the above would need to have additional units added to get them up to fighting strength if one was going down the historical route but as the basis for an imagi-nation set up this little lot would form a cracking starting point.

To save you reaching for the calculator the above adds up to the following:

Foot: 877
Mounted: 246

There is around another 100 or so foot and 10 or so mounted so you may as well say 1,000 foot and 260 mounted.

However you dress it up it there is a lot of metal there!

The above collection is currently being reviewed by a potential buyer but in the meantime should anyone be interested in any of the above please contact me.

Friday, 26 July 2019

"Conquistador, your stallion stands...."

Great book, great TV series but why do I get the feeling that this is not going to end well.....?

My capacity for being sucked into yet another project is legendary. Very occasionally I even manage to make one of them stick in some fashion although usually after the initial rush of enthusiasm has been exhausted, practicality rears its ugly head and this the current 'in thing' inevitably falls by the wayside. There should be a law against wargames fly tipping in this manner methinks!

I mentioned in the last Sitrep about my acquisition of a selection of Foundry Pirates and figures from their El Dorado range. My initial thoughts concerning the latter eventually settled on using them as Portuguese on the basis that the variety of opposition had greater variety than that facing the Spanish version. Conquistadors all for sure but with the Portuguese you could number Africans, Indians, Arabs, East Asians, Chinese and Japanese amongst their opponents rather than the more usual range of Central and South American types (Brazil is a separate issue - at least for my purposes).

This is not a period I know very much about although I was reminded of the excellent BBC TV series some years ago called Conquistadors by the well known historian Michael Wood. Before I had settled on the Portuguese I figured it would be good idea to track down a copy of the book of the series as a good introduction to the whole Conquistador phenomena and its place in the overall scheme of things. I duly picked up a copy for a giveaway price and I am pretty sure you can guess the rest....

The source of the El Dorado figures also has a number of Tlaxcallans and Aztec figures - unpainted - for disposal that initially I was going to leave. However, my ice cream like resolve has melted faster than the England cricket team's first innings against Ireland and so I am looking at the aforementioned Aztecs and Tlaxcallans.

I must be mad and I am hoping that this temporary brain storm will soon pass but just when I am getting a handle on things so the above book beckons me onward with its siren call.

An old wargaming friend, sadly no longer with us, raised an Aztec army using Naismith figures in 25mm (this would have the early to mid 1980s) to use under WRG 6th edition. As I recall it was lethal in action but looked to my eyes as being incredibly difficult to paint well. there was also rather a lot of figures involved!

These days, with the whole Portable Wargame/Rampant series of rules being my gaming of choice raising such forces are, for me in any event, far more achievable in theory.

I am still thinking about the opposition for the Conquistador types but the traditional New World option is very tempting. However, whichever direction I opt to source the opposition from - the West or the East - I need to carry out rather more in the way of research before committing myself!

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

The Weekly Sitrep....Number 38

Holly, our daughter, Laurel and I on the occasion of Holly's graduation. Pimms for the ladies  whilst yours truly supped on a very nice summer ale, the name of which escapes me.

It has been a busy and eventful week for a number of reasons. The main news was the graduation of our daughter, Holly. he has just completed a four year combined honours degree in art and psychology at the University of Reading, gaining a 2:1 (and a vast amount of student loan as well....) as reward for her efforts. For a variety of reasons (other than being her dad of course!) I am properly proud of her and what she has overcome along the way and achieved and am not ashamed to admit it was a teary eyed and proud dad that watched her take part in the graduation ceremony! It was a wonderful day and even the best efforts of the M25 (over three hours each way - it normally takes just under two) and the morning rain could not dampen our spirits.

The last of the Minifigs Seven Years War figures have found a new home and so will be heading off during the course of this week. The Marlburians are hopefully next but I need to finish sorting these out for listing and photographing. Then I can think about Eric's WW2 collection which should be arriving soon.

I have landed myself with a rather delicious dilemma. To cut a long story short I shall be taking delivery of a collection (unpainted naturally) of Foundry 28mm pirates and also some of their old El Dorado range of Conquistador types. The pirates are most welcome although it does mean that tackling the same in 15mm as originally intended will not now take place. I shall still be using the Peter Pig ships and possibly even the Pieces of Eight rules using a single 28mm figures in place of a base.

The El Dorado range would normally be associated with the Spanish (visions of painting hordes of Aztecs has been giving me sleepless nights!) but, being the typically unfashionable gamer that I am I have decided that if I ever get around to doing something with them they will instead be Portuguese. The main reason for this is that they went South and East whilst the Spanish went West meaning that the variety of opposition is rather more interesting. I am thinking something along the lines of Lion Rampant or the Pikeman's Lament for the rules but lets see where my thoughts and research take me.

As part of my piratical research I was able to acquire a modest selection of books from the all round good egg that is Tamsin Piper. Rather embarrassingly these books were the same ones I had disposed of in the other direction a few years ago - we had a chuckle about this when we met and put it down to the cyclical nature of gaming projects! Many thanks once again Tamsin for taking the time out to meet up.

Great fun - what I would call a 'Sunday afternoon' film

Although slightly earlier than the pirate period I am looking at I finally got around to watching the two classic Errol Flynn films: Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk. It is hard to believe that I have never seen these - at least I do not remember having done so - but at long last I now have. Alongside of watching these I am also reading the complete works of Rafael Sabatini as both of the films were based on his novels of the same name - the latter very loosely - this was real a shame in my opinion as the novel The Sea Hawk would make a great film in its own right. Sabatini of course also penned Scaramouche - "He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad" - which is one of my favourite films starring Stewart Granger as Andre Moreau and featuring a quite thrilling sword fight ast its climax.

Work on the Last Crusade scenarios has moved along slowly but I am getting there. I am hoping to run the first action at some point next month so will keep you posted.

Monday, 15 July 2019

The Weekly Sitrep....Numbers 36 and 37

With apologies to any New Zealand readers....

First of all apologies for the delay in the last Sitrep - I was kind of caught up with the aftermath of COW as well as the ongoing sort out in the man cave and other 'stuff'.

First of all congratulations to both the England Cricket Team on their World Cup victory and also Lewis Hamilton for the British Grand Prix. The cricket was incredibly tense at the end and New Zealand were desperately unlucky to lose. I am sure I am not alone in wondering why watching any England  team in a final or a championship of some kind is so painful!

The final phases of the disposal of Eric's unpainted 25 mm late 17th and 18th century collection are well underway. The portion that will be listed on eBay has been crated up (there are four in all) and the rest of the Minifigs are set to one side. The Marlburians are in the process of being photographed and listed and the remaining Seven Years War figures are currently under consideration. I shall be tying up with Bill the arrangements for taking delivery of the 20 mm WW2 kit over the next week or so and so will also be drawing up lists and taking pictures in due course.

Work on the Last Crusade scenarios has begun and has thrown up a gentle reminder of two things I need to do. The first is to get the new command blocks ready - these are the quarter size blocks with a flag and a number for identification - and also to draft a play sheet for the appropriate set of Portable Wargame rules. On the subject of these I will be using those from Bob's original book and I want to use the rules as far as possible as they were written.

Whilst this is going on I have also been revisiting my Memoir '44 collection. I have a couple of mini campaigns downloaded from the net (actually more like a series of themed scenarios than a campaign per se) that are rather tempting and of course have the priceless advantage of being able to be set up easily enough.

The Pirates have been modified slightly in that I shall be looking at the naval side first of all and I will look to tackle the land aspects in a different way to how I intended originally. No details for the time being but I will post about this in due course.

Funnily enough the last three paragraphs in this post are all linked in quite a surprising and overlooked fashion. Some time ago I acquired a selection of 1:600th scale figures from Tumbling Dice - originally to use for generic 20th century armies with the troop uniforms being wither khaki, olive green or grey. I also purchased some of the vehicle that Tumbling Dice produce and supplemented these with some bits and pieces from Magister Militum - mainly WW1 tanks. The plan was to use these for Memoir '44, The Great War, the Portable Wargame and Sam Mustafa's Rommel.

The figures are quite large and are around 4 mm all which fits in rather nicely with the Peter Pig Pirate ships - certainly for the land side if needed. I have not decided on this as I would still prefer to use 15 mm for land actions but they do offer a nice alternative.

As ever, much to ponder....

Friday, 12 July 2019

The Last Crusade Scenarios

As mentioned previously this rule book is a veritable goldmine of information and ideas

As the dust from COW slowly settles I am now in a position to get back to what passes for normality in my wargaming world. I have a lot of things to do - mainly administrative in nature - and of course there is also the ongoing disposal of Eric's collection to consider but I would say that I feel properly enthused following my weekend away. Being surrounded by like-minded souls, albeit briefly, does wonders for one's spirit and I am now looking forward to the rest of the year with renewed vigour.

One of the things I have been doing is reading through the above set of rules that came from the bring and buy at COW and I have to say that my interest in the theatre in question has been properly reignited! In truth I cannot see myself using the rules as such - although they are not as complex as I first thought - but the information and ideas contained within its pages is invaluable.

Aside from the extensive orders of battle for Palestine, Gallipoli, Caucasus, Mesopotamia, East Africa and Arabia there are also a number of theatre specific scenarios. These are as follows:

1. Tank Redoubt, Second Gaza, Palestine, 19th April 1917
2. "The Lighthorsemen", Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917
3. Gun Ridge, ANZAC Landings, Gallipoli, 25th April 1915 (ANZAC Day)
4. Second Krithia, Gallipol, 6 - 8th May 1915
5. Sarikamis, Enver's Offensive, Caucasus, 31st December 1914
6. Battle in the Garden of Eden, Qurna, Mesopotamia, 7th December 1914
7. Ctesiphon, Mesopotamia, 22nd November 1915
8. Salaita Hill, German East africa, 12th February 1916
9. Kisaki, German East Africa, 7th September 1916
10. Tafila, Arab Revolt, Palestine, 25th January 1918

All of the above feature maps, orders of battle and scenario specific rules along with the victory conditions. Mulling them over I have come to the decision  that here is my gaming schedule for the rest of the year as it would be great fun to turn them into something Portable Wargame based using the block armies. It would be relatively straightforward to organise each one and as the entire theatre is something I am really interested in I will certainly enjoy the process. 

The Plan

I will be fighting these scenarios in the order above and on a 12 x 8 3" square grid (I have two boards this size - one green and one sand coloured). I will be using Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame for the rules. The block armies will be used and for identification purposes and so I will need to get the command blocks with flags and numbers ready in the first instance. I will use all the scenario specific orders of battle and victory conditions and the maps after having adjusted them to a grid. I have even set up a folder on the blog called "The Last Crusade" to store the after action reports in. I am also go to get all these games in by the end of the year!

Best I crack on then....

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

(Trying to get) Out of Africa....

A few years I was given a small pile of books by Bob Cordery following one of his reorganisation exercises. I am confident he is not the only gamer that does this and indeed, I seem to be doing so - and 'churning' my collection overall - every few months or so! Anyway, the book you see promptly joined the East African section of my Great War library and quietly waited until I got around to reading it.

A quite remarkable tome and a wonderful story to boot. Quoting the mantra of COW and Wargame Developments in general "There's a game in that!"

The East African campaign during the Great War is a fascinating story of which the Konigsberg forms a significant part - even after she had been sunk. Her crew and main guns (10 x 4.1") were salvaged and deployed by the Germans both in the field in support of Von Lettow-Vorbeck and as fortress artillery in defence of their colony. Could she have gotten away? I have no doubt she could have gotten to open water but given that she was undermanned, in poor shape mechanically and chronically short of coal as well as being outgunned would probably not have lasted very long.

Her story and ultimate fate are the main contents of this book and the author draws on many accounts from various participants to round out the story. There are numerous contemporary pictures and plenty of technical detail as well accounts of the short but interesting life of the ship up to when she sought sanctuary in the pestilential and crocodile infested Rufiji Delta.

Her final battle in the Rufiji Delta would certainly make for an interesting game in my opinion and so I shall look into this in a little more detail to see how far it will float.

As an aside I should point out that the entire East African campaign was the main inspiration for the famous Madasahatta campaign organised by Eric Knowles.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Home Thoughts from COW 2019....Part the Second

COW is not a trade show but it does maintain a modest bring and buy stand so that those with the urge to ferret around for a bargain there is the opportunity to do so. In my experience wargamers like a bargain and so virtually everyone had a peek to see what was on offer. Then of course there is the prearranged drop off of goods or presents or those that were selling items privately and that were not captured by the bring and buy. The two that fell into this category - there may have been others that I was not aware of - were Trebian and John Curry. The former was selling in support of the Northamptonshire Battlefield Society  and the latter is of course, the History of Wargames Project. Both of these are worthy endeavours.

My rummage in the Bring and Buy turned up the rules you see below.

Covering the Great War in the Middle East and Africa and also including the Caucasus, Mesopotamia as well as the Dardanelles. In other words, right up my street!

I will probably not use the rules but there is a wealth of information contained within its pages as well as some interesting scenarios and orders of battle. I was pleased to have gotten hold of a set of these especially at such a good price.

Originally published by 3W the above is a boardgame covering ACW naval battles and was a development of and is compatible with the old Yaquinto board game, Ironclads.

The above game, courtesy of John Curry, much like the rules above, contains a wealth of information but it is unlikely I would play it as written as it is hugely complex. I used to enjoy the similar game of Ironclads back in the day but I prefer simpler systems these days! My plan is to tinker with the appropriate rules from Bob Cordery's book Gridded Naval Wargames and use them in conjunction with the ship counters and map sheet.

The ship data cards contain a lot of information which will be useful when building my models - especially gun positions - and there is also some very handy templates for measuring firing arcs.

As I drove home I realised I had purchased a couple of items that I would not be using in the way the designers intended. I have previous form for this - Axis and Allies being a good example, not to mention various board games that I have harvested from boot sales over the years.

Does that sit well with the values and beliefs of WD? Based on my experience of COW 2019 I would say a resounding yes!

Monday, 8 July 2019

Home Thoughts from COW 2019

This weekend saw the annual Conference of Wargamers (COW) organised by Wargames Developments taking place in what is almost their spiritual home of Knuston Hall in Northamptonshire. It also marked the occasion of my very first visit to COW despite having been an occasional member of WD over the years. The weekend starts on Friday evening and runs until Sunday afternoon but due to a diary clash I was unable to attend Friday and so I set out for the 100 mile drive to Knuston Hall around 6:20 am on Saturday. with an expected travel time of just over two hours.

Knuston Hall - a quiet and tranquil country retreat - usually (well until the first weekend in July!)

Sure enough I arrived as breakfast was in full swing so after having checked in and dumped my bags I headed off for something to eat (to avoid repetition I have to say that the food is excellent!). After some very tasty scrambled eggs and bacon with some much needed coffee I started to have a wander about. I am not a regular driver (I average less than 4,000 miles a year) and so after any drive of over and hour and so - especially to somewhere I have not been to before - I invariably get a slight nagging headache which takes a couple of hours to shake off. With this in mind I made the decision to avoid booking in to any of the games until later in the day - in fact not until after dinner - so that I could worth through the headache and take a good browse around at what was going on.

Tim Gow, the sartorially elegant bon vivant, wit and raconteur 

Tim Gow had other ideas though as he greeted me in the lobby and gave me an impromptu but very welcome guided tour of the place as well as regaling me with tales of COWs gone by and the areas outside that have been used as battlefields (who can forget the Knuston Heights?) previously. Tour complete it was time to 'do the rounds' and see what was happening and where. I was also on a mission to meet as many people that I had previously only interacted with via blogs and emails as well as satisfying something rather special and a longstanding personal ambition of mine

Well it wouldn't be COW without some of the real thing would it?

The immortal Trebian running a quite superb looking 20mm plastic game set during the Jacobite Rebellion - Culloden I think - using his own rules (which he kindly gave me a copy of). Look closely and you may well recognise some Airfix American War of Independence infantry.

Trebian, in conjunction with Phil Steele, also ran a very nice looking War of the Roses game based on the Battle of Edgecote. As well as having fought the battle he has also written about the same and is a tireless supporter and campaigner for the Northamptonshire Battlefields Trust

Sue Laflin running her Asterix and Redbeard's Treasure game which looked like a huge amount of fun!

One of the highlights of the conference for me was the opportunity to meet, in person, both Phil Barker and Sue Laflin and to express my thanks for the enormous amount of pleasure everything WRG has given me since the late 1970s. I am adult enough to admit to being initially quite starstruck but I needn't have worried as they were both quite approachable! I was able to swap anecdotes with Phil concerning WRG 6th edition ancients and also his 1685 to 1845 set which was a lot of fun. The word legend can be used very easily these days but let's be completely honest, Phil and Sue are right up there with Featherstone, Grant, Lawford, Young and others in my opinion and their contribution to our hobby has been immense. It was an absolute pleasure meeting them.

John Armatys and the WD Display Team North with the delightful '10 minute Operation Market Garden' game. I thought I had missed this as it was scheduled for Friday night but John very kindly ran it again for me and it was enormous fun.

Needless to say the quotes from 'A Bridge Too Far' came fast and furious!

The battlefield. Essentially the game was about 30 Corps advancing to Arnhem. I played it twice and the first time got as far as Elst (next to Arnhem) whilst the second time I successfully reached the bridge relieved the British 1st Airborne with a day to spare for sightseeing and picking tulips....

Over the Hills (and far away) - a hypothetical divisional level action set somewhere in Spain during the Peninsular war. The rules in use were written by Wayne Thomas and cover the period 1790 to 1840 using a square grid. David Brock and Colin Maby provided support and Wayne very kindly gave me a copy of his rules for which grateful thanks.

Another view of the same action, this time from the opposite end of the table. The game featured 15mm figures and a really nice cloth.

COW, 54mm figures and Tim Gow are almost obligatory/inevitable and this year was no exception as the large scale kit came out to fight an action - Gandesa - from the Spanish Civil War. Originally this was supposed to be on the lawn but the weather turned slightly inclement so the indoor option was preferred. I did not take part but contributed by carrying 6 empty pint glasses to and from the venue for use as flight stands for the air support. Nerf guns, dartboards and oasis blocks (the things that florists use for flower displays) all featured and Mr Gow supplied all the toys except for buildings I believe. there were some truly inspired pieces of conversion work, painting and inventive bodgery in evidence and indeed, Tim is a past master of such inventiveness!

The scene at the end of the battle. Whilst this was being fought I was busy taking Arnhem....

Carry On up the Nile organised and run by COW stalwart and old friend Bob Cordery

I can do no better that to quote directly from the conference brochure - "An opportunity to try out Chris Engle's battle rules, POLITICS BY OTHER MEANS / SIMPLE STUPID RULES.

A none to serious sequel to last year's SAVE GORDON! game. Can a second British relief force (led by Sir Sydney Ruff-Diamond) breal the siege of Khartoum and relieve Gordon and Sir Garnet Wolseley? Will the 3rd Foot and Mouth (the famous 'Devils in Skirts') give the Dervishes a whirl they'll never forget? Not so much Khartoum as Khartoon...and more Charlton Trotter than Charlton Heston! (Charlton is Rodney Trotter's middle name. Not a lot of people know that.)

This was how Bob had set up the action initially but, once the players became involved all this was to change, and quite dramatically.

Note the position of the relieving gunboat and troop transport

Note the marauding Burpas under their feared leader Bungdit Din but wait, who is that mysterious figure standing on his own facing the troop ship? It is none other than Randy Lal, the Khasi of Kalabar (played to stunning effect by yours truly....)

The action by this stage was well under way and by virtue of the Mahdi decisively out-praying the infidel note the dice score where 6s are very good....

I am not going to write up a blow by blow account of this game as I believe that there will be better accounts available in due course. I will add my personal observations once the official reports are out from my residence in exile from a leaking cottage just outside of Norfolk... Suffice it to say it was enjoyed by all and if anyone had made a recording of the dialogue then it would have seemed liked a Carry On tribute show! 

Sue Laflin with her Pirates of the Spanish Main Game using the ships from the Wargame the Spanish Armada book by Peter Dennis and Andy Callan available from Helion.

The action underway. My Piratical career got off to a less than successful start as I managed to drive one ship onto a reef and then had three others sunk out of eight!

John Curry of the History of Wargames project. A very nice chap chock full of 'stuff' - and all wargamers like 'stuff'!

I drew this ship at random. Honest....

The allies look on whilst plotting the downfall of the Germans (they did not have to worry about this as they managed it quite well on their own!)

The action underway - note the very nice shell splash markers.

The game that John had organised was based on the US Naval War college wargames devised between the wars. The games was very much pre aircraft and indeed, was based on WW1 ships. The rules were designed very much for teaching command and control rather than being a detailed set of naval wargames rules so big guns and battleships were very much the order of the day. John only had 1:3000th WW2 ships available so these, in true Hollywood tradition, substituted for their WW1 counterparts. The gratifyingly relaxed nature of COW means that such considerations as using the right models for a game are very much small beer in the overall scheme of things.

The scenario was very simple. It was early 1914 and a small German squadron had to exit the straits of Gibraltar to head home to Germany. The allied force of British and US warships (I told you it was hypothetical) were tasked with stopping them. The two sides were settled upon and we then had to randomly draw to see what ship we would be using. I was VERY pleased to see that I had drawn the German battle cruiser Seydlitz – my fondness for this ship is well known – and so the final match up was that the allies had four dreadnoughts and a battlecruiser whilst the Germans had two battle cruisers and three dreadnoughts. The allies had a substantial advantage in weight of fire. After resolving a few scale and distance issues – John agreed that using the Avalon Hill Jutland counters would have worked better – we got under way.

In many respects the game resembled the old arcade of Space Invaders in the allies merely orbited from side to side whilst the Germans moved closer and closer and got more and more shot up. In many ways it replicated the way the war went in that whilst the Germans had parity of numbers in terms of capital ships (historically they closest they got was, I believe in late 1914/early 1915) they were certainly outgunned and so It was not going to end well if we had continued but luckily lunch intervened. It was an interesting system in use – no dice – and it could potentially be expanded out into something more ‘wargamey’. Details of this and many other early wargames that are available to purchase can be found of John’s website here.

Another example of COW wildlife - there were loads of them!

For me COW is much bigger than the sum of its parts. For sure there is a veritable smorgasbord of games on offer and you would really struggle to not find something that appeals. I managed to get 5 games in (to qualify that one of them I played twice so 4 if one was to be pedantic) over the weekend but it could easily have been double that. The best part had to be the people. Here was gathering of like-minded individuals that could interact in a serious or light-hearted way, united by a common cause which may or may not involve using model soldiers, tanks, ships or aircraft to have fun and to play games. Ideas were batted about, anecdotes flew like confetti as battles gone by were remembered as well as those that were no longer around. I was a COW novice but any apprehension I may have had disappeared within minutes of my arrival and the entire weekend was one of cracking good fellowship.

I was delighted to have met many so many people that I have only previously interacted with via the blogosphere and apologies in advance if I have missed anyone out – Geordie – an exiled FOG (I now know what the ‘Exiled FOG’ means!), Trebian, John Curry and Martin Rapier.

Geordie was on good form and over several beers we swapped war stories as well crossing swords over the table in Bob Cordery’s game. Trebian the Passionate made sure that one could not fail to be enthused by his lunchtime speech about battlefield preservation – he is heavily involved in this - and our heritage. John Curry shared his obvious dedication to his History of Wargames project and this is one that deserves all our thanks. It was a real pleasure to meet up with Martin Rapier and we spent some time discussing what he was up to and how it was all going. This was a common theme throughout the weekend as was the sharing of ideas and the willingness, without exception to talk about projects old and new.

I drove home from COW just after lunch on Sunday and as I said my goodbyes was universally asked if I enjoyed it and would I be back next year (with the occasional observation that I had survived the experience!). I would be delighted to do so as the whole weekend reinforced all of my ideas about what wargames should be like, more importantly, how they should be played. Comradely good fellowship, good food, stimulating conversation and a wonderful selection of games makes COW a fantastic experience and I am richer for having been there.

My sincerest thanks to both Bob Cordery and Tim Gow for encouraging me to attend and for having the patience to wait until I did – all I can say is that it is better late than never!