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.