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.