Thursday, 19 April 2018

Shining a Torch....

Picked up at Salute and a valuable resource for my plans.

I mentioned in my last post about the WW2 land side and how best I would be tackling it. The main rules I shall be using are Rommel, Battlegroup and of course the Portable Wargame. The one thing I did not mention though is what I would be gaming as effectively there are two scales in play. I have been thinking about this a lot and so have decided that Rommel - which will using a 1/300th and 1/600th fusion of models - will be used for actions set in the late war, either Western or Eastern front. Battlegroup however, will be used for the desert via Tunisia.

My reasons for choosing Tunisia for the Battlegroup option rather than the earlier period in the desert are many but certainly one of the main ones being because I can add the Americans in to the usual mix of British/Commonwealth, German and Italian forces. There is also a very good selection of kits available for all sides and it also means I can use the infantry figures from Axis and Allies (of which I have a huge number!).

The theatre of operations - seapower played a decisive part in the outcome of the campaign.
Mention of the kit or even kits for the period is an important one for me as I have had a hankering to make some models for some time. Tracked vehicles are not the holy terror of years gone by with rubber tracks and a gazillion road wheels to fix in place - Armourfast and the Plastic Soldier Company have seen to that - so I am looking forward to this part of the project. The scale of games in Battlegroup is such that I will not need great carparks of vehicles to have some interesting actions and besides, what's not to like about any campaign where Lee/Grant and Tiger tanks appear!
The Tunisian Campaign has a lot of potential for me in terms of gaming and the variety of kit in use and so I am confident it will provide me with plenty of things to think about when I get to it.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Mind blowing, Decisions....

Following on from my post of yesterday I planned to spend some time yesterday evening sorting through the bits and pieces I have for the WW2 and ACW projects to get a little clarity around how I shall be doing what I will be doing so to speak.

Thanks to a three hour train journey home (plastic sheeting on the overhead power lines) and having to sort out some hassles with SWMBO's phone I was not able to get anything meaningful done.

The situation I find myself in at present in respect of the project list is not an onerous one by any means but it does need some thought and planning.


I am happy to use the block armies on a gridded playing area for the foreseeable future. I may get some figures painted for this but this is so far in the future that I am not even thinking about it! In any event I have no idea as to what scale figures I would use.

The naval side is limited to painting the models and deciding what rules to use. This will feature sooner rather than later but not until I have squared away some WW2 bits and pieces.

Taken as a whole then I am quite happy with the ACW and how it fits into my overall scheme of things. The critical point is that I have the wherewithal to fight some games using the block armies straight off the bat so to speak. If pushed I could drip feed some ACW ship painting into the mix but my preference would be to tackle the 40 odd models as a complete project rather than doing small pieces at odd times.


The ships will come first and my plans to draft a set of rules to use with them have been parked. as it currently stands the British and Germans will be tackled first followed by the Italians (I have yet to get these at the time of writing). The Pacific fleets will follow but I have no timetable for when.

The land side is a little more complex in that I really want to tackle both Rommel and Battlegroup Tobruk/Torch. Rommel will be on the micro side - a fusion of 1/300th and 1/600th models - whilst Battlegroup will be using something larger, probably 20mm as I have a hankering to 'bash some kits'. Rommel may get the nod first as I can readily use the block armies supported by the Axis and Allies models. When I get to the figure stage for this I will be using the 1/600th models from Tumbling Dice. This is a particularly thorny subject for me at present as I am not sure which to do first and keep vacillating between Ronmel and Battlegroup although the former is currently in pole position

The aerial dimension will be tackled at some point but I am unsure when this will be. It is rather a large project in any event and so is likely to be broken down into theatre specific chunks.

OGRE and Sci Fi in general

This is a small and self-contained project that can be slotted in where needed. I have a small quantity of  'Mechs awaiting attention but again, they would be very easy to slot in as required.

Congo and The Men who would be Kings

Again, I am planning on these being fairly self-contained and low level in terms of figures needed. I am unsure what scale I shall be using and I have a few novel ideas I am toying with as to what to use. No hurry with this but I would like to think I would be looking seriously at these by the end of the year.


There is a saying along the lines of 'no plan survives beyond the first contact with the enemy' or something similar. This is true but I find it really helpful to at least have some kind of a framework to work to. The list above is quite helpful in that the 'chunks' are relatively bite-sized and so for me quite manageable. There is plenty of variety and options to explore which is very important when one is so easily distracted. If I can stick with the first two on the list in the way I plan to tackle them I will certainly get a number of things dealt with but more importantly, I will be able to get some games in again.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

19th Century Breakdown....Here it comes

The Battle of Chancellorsville 1863 as per the Battle Cry scenario using my block armies and Heroscape
I spent an enjoyable evening yesterday thumbing through the recently acquired four volumes of Battles and Leaders as well as revisiting the box of Peter Pig ACW ship models I have. I have everything I need for this part of the ACW project – even scenery – so have little or no excuse for not tackling it (and offering up a silent prayer of thanks that I still have them in my collection) but my main focus is the WW2 project. There are even some new rules for the period by the indefatigable Dave Manley that I may take a look at – they are designed to be fast play and there is also a campaign system to boot. There is plenty of scope within the period for some interesting games and with the campaign option as well it is even more attractive. I suspect though that land based games will feature first of all using the block armies and my Heroscape terrain. I can lift scenarios straight from the Battle Cry rulebook in the short term but Battles and Leaders will provide plenty of smaller actions to tackle.  
As I now have some storage on the ground floor I may relocate some of my gaming collection for this – namely the blue and grey blocks, the terrain, some Heroscape tiles and my dice/marker box. I already have a foldaway table of 3ft by 2ft which will be more than sufficient to set up a 13 x 9 Command and Colours playing area using Heroscape tiles. I could even knock up a Portable Wargame board with 2” squares if needed. Either of those options would work well although I will need to represent units with single blocks rather than using the famous 4, 3 and 2 approach. I have done this in the past and marked hits using the counters from a travel version of the game Othello. These are black one side and white the other. The white side represents a single hit and the black is two. An infantry unit with two hits suffered would have two white counters and a third hit would flip one over to its black side so that it would be showing one white and one back counter. Luckily the counters are small enough to sit happily on the blocks. I have used this method before and it looks fine. 
In the short term then my wargames world looks something like this. I am painting WW2 warships for naval gaming but intend fighting land battles set in the ACW using blocks. I have the land side to consider for Rommel/Battlegroup WW2 and then the ships for the ACW. To add to this I have the OGRE miniatures (very self-contained) and also Congo/The Men Who Would be Kings. On the face of it that is a fairly modest list but the big advantage is that there is sufficient variety contained therein to stop me getting bored. 
For me this looks hellishly reasonable and even, dare I say it, relatively achievable.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Saying hello to an old, new friend....

A project tipping point - more scenarios than one could shake a 1861 Springfield Rifled Musket at!

In my last post I mentioned that I had been after a set of Battles and Leaders for some time. This is true up to a point. I wanted a set ages ago and then decided - somewhat rashly as it turns out - that I was severing my ties with the ACW entirely. So I did. All of the books I had acquired as well as the models and boardgames were all disposed of and so the Blue and the Grey had disappeared from my consciousness.

Or had it?

I have enjoyed a love/hate relationship with the ACW over the years (mainly due to some horrible rule sets that prompted my somewhat hasty disposals) but have grown to realise (again) that as a wargames period it offers much to commend it. It is well supported with books, rules, figures and board games to start with and so getting into the period would be very easy. It could be tackled as cheaply or as expensively as required and most importantly offers a large variety of challenging scenarios to game. Critically though, it includes viable combined arms style operations along the rivers and coastline.

The Battle of Fort Duvet on the Yahoo River

Scratchbuilt models of the USS Essex and CSS Arkansas trade blows - the latter came second and was duly sunk.

As the Union forces advanced so the USS Carondelet and the Essex attempt to engage the Fort Duvet on the Blueberry Bend.

Back in the early days of this blog - when I was going through my ACW 'love' phase as opposed to the 'hate' version - I embarked on a massive scratchbuilding program to churn out some ACW ships for use on the rivers and swampy bayous in conjunction with the block armies and actually fought some very good games using them with Attack on Fort Duvet, 1862 being a good example (God was that really 5 years ago?!). Whilst the ships have gone (and have been replaced with Peter Pig 1/600th models) the block armies have remained.

For a variety of reasons though I am unlikely to tackle the second half of the 19th century from a European perspective - my interest in the continent effectively ends in 1815 (even allowing for the Russo-Turkish War) - but I am interested in warfare during the period. I could tackle colonial small wars stuff for sure (and fully intend doing so - hence Congo and The Men Who Would Be Kings) but the war that ticks most of my boxes in respect of scale and scope is therefore, by a process of elimination, the ACW. The wars in South America could have offered an alternative but for some reason do not engage me in quite the same way as the war between the states.

I came to this conclusion over a period of about 18 months and so at the end of last year I made my first tentative foray back into the period by acquiring a copy of John Keegan's book on the American Civil War as a primer. I still had a selection of Peter Pig ACW ships and a pile of their 3mm troop blocks (very nearly disposed of in the 'cull'), not to mention their Hammerin' Iron riverine naval rules so that would represent a start.

For the land side I am thinking that the wooden block armies will suffice to begin with although I would like to tackle some figures at some point - this would be a long way off though.

As it stands then I have the models for the naval side, metal troop blocks for the armies should I wish and the ready to use wooden block armies. I could fight land battles immediately if I wished which is ironic in that the WW2 project is front and centre of my efforts at present. Painting the ships would make for a nice change from the WW2 stuff if required though.

So what of Battles and Leaders then?

Well, from the minor flirting with the ACW once again occasioned by John Keegan's book my surprise acquisition of the above series courtesy of Dave Lanchester at Salute has moved the ACW back in from the shadows to sit along side the WW2 project. This will serve initially as an alternative period for when my notoriously short attention span starts flagging and a distraction is needed. Without a doubt the inspiration Battles and Leaders will provide is immeasurable and so I am sure it will generate many ideas.

I never expected to be coming home with this collection from a wargames show but now that I have I am glad that I have - I am sure it will spur me on to accord the period the attention it deserves - I am a sucker for historical accounts from participants et al as they really add to the flavour of what one is trying to game in my opinion. At the very least it will serve as a reminder of why I should game this period rather than be put off by mere sets of rules.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Salute and Sa-Loot

Well I have finally done it. I have been to Salute at the Excel.

The theme of Salute 2018 was WW1 and smack in the centre of things was this rather nice not quite full sized tank

By virtue of the fact I was helping Dave Lanchester set up his stall (although most of the work had been done of Friday afternoon) I arrived at the Excel a little after 7am. I was carrying two heavy bags full of books and so Daves’ book stall seemed to be miles away from the car park - not only that I did not have a map of the venue (I must have been the only person in the Western Hemisphere that did not!) so it was hugely fortunate that Dave and Lynne arrived at the entrance at the same moment I did. Our transaction was speedily concluded (more of which later) and the final touches to the setting up was completed fairly quickly and so I was free to have a wander around before the fun started.

I would like to say that I took loads of pictures and spoke with many gamers, traders and friends old and new but taking each part in turn I would say a few, a few again, quite a few and a few more. If I am honest I was overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the event. The lighting for the place did not seem very conducive to taking pictures (I managed a few though) and it felt rather warm inside as well. The floor caused a few of us older types some problems - my old ankle injury which has impacted on the rest of my leg over the last 30 years - being covered concrete and so with little ‘give’and by the time I left at a little after 1pm I was delighted to sit down in the car for the drive home. In fact as I writing this my left leg still feels like it has run a marathon and my ankle has adopted its customary level of swollen malevolence....

I was able to take part in the annual bloggers meet up - my first - and so it was great fun talking to Bob Cordery, Tamsin Piper, Big Lee, One Lover Ray and Posty (of reject fame) not to mention Dave from Suffolk and Carl from Hitting on a Double 1 (and I now know why he used that title for his blog!). Apologies to any I may have missed out.

Andy Callan with some of the paper armies set up for battle

A closer view of the action and a very nice looking set of 18th century types deployed for battle

I had a chat with Andy Callan about bargain wargames - using Jenga blocks (a subject dear to my heart) and Axis and Allies miniatures, not to mention Risk figures and assorted odds and ends. It was nice to talk about using items other than models with a kindred spirit. Peter Dennis arrived and so the conversation turned to the quite outstanding paper soldiers being used and featuring in a number of publications. They are something I may well investigate.

Dan Mersey demonstrating Red Alert - the next PSC/Richard Borg collaboration featuring deep space battles using the Command and Colours system

A closer view of the action. The game will be coming to a kick starter near you soon....

I also had a long chat with Dan Mersey (of Lion/Dragon Rampant, The Men Who Would be Kings and others) who was demonstrating a forthcoming Richard Borg Command and Colours deep space combat game called Red Alert. The Plastic Soldier Company will be launching this on kickstarter soon and it looks a cracker.

I also had a quick chat with Ron Weaver of the Continental Wars Society and he was telling me how he had managed to get his set of rules for the game they were hosting down to a single side of A5 card. I was very impressed by this so I challenged him to see if he could go to a standard index card next time....

I mentioned that I did not take many pictures of games so hear is a selection of those that I did. 

An action set in Italy featuring a convent and rampaging Garibaldists. Chris Hardman and Messrs. Francis and Weston set this one up and very nice it looked as well.

Part of the Lake Tanganyika/African Queen game with the African Queen featuring above....

...and Mimi and Tou Tou going forth against the Kingani

Plastic Soldier Company put on the above game to coincide with the launch of Battlegroup Torch - the latest supplement in the Battlegroup series covering North Africa up to the fall of Tunisia.

Wings of War WW1 aerial - and a very impressive collection of models. Look closely and you can see Snoopy in his Red Baron guise...

I did not get he chance to credit the clubs in question for the games above for which I apologise but anyone that has a show guide could probably find out!

As far as the Salute loot was concerned (the Sa-loot of the title) I was able get that which I wanted, that which I had been after for some time and finally, something that I had half a hankering for that appeared, as if by magic and at a great price.

From the top Battles and Leaders, The War in East Africa, some Tumbling Dice 1/600th figures and a single City gunboat from Peter Pig. 

The books were from Dave Lanchester and I have been after a set of Battles and Leaders for an age. I am a great fan of reading contemporary or near contemporary accounts of battles and this is a great set covering the war between the states. The War in East Africa is the fourth volume in the series covering the Mediterranean and Middle East and is a compilation of official reports covering the area mentioned. As a ‘sideshow’ naturally it is something I would be interested in....

Battlegroup Torch with a complementary 1/72nd scale Stuart/Honey (this was part of the shopping plan) and finally a copy of Congo - skirmishes set in the Heart of Africa or rather as we would imagine them to be so suitable for anything along the lines of King Soloman’s Mines or similar.

I am planning something ‘Battlegroup’ related at some point and the desert will be my first choice in a larger scale. I would be able to make use of the infantry from my Axis and Allies collections. Throw in a few kits and we are good to go.

Congo is something I have been pondering for a while as it is something a little different and not too figure intensive. The rules feature some stunning Foundry figures in use (actually that is where I got them from) but I am thinking again about 20mm. Having said that I reckon that the sets  available from Foundry would also make good forces for The Men Who Would be Kings. Something to think about for the future anyway.

Summing it all up then I would say I had a great day. For sure it was tiring and I hurt in places I forgot I had but meeting up with friends old and new as well as the chance to see some quite stunning games and to tackle the all important retail therapy Salute certainly ticked all the boxes. 

Would I go again? 


Thursday, 12 April 2018

Saluting an old friend

This coming Saturday sees the annual Salute wargames show in London organised by the South London Warlords. It is a huge show - the biggest event of the UK wargames calendar - but is not one that I have attended since back in the day when it was held at Kensington Town Hall. I vaguely remember going to Olympia once but since then I have never been.

All that is in the past though as this Saturday I shall be going to Salute for the first time at the Excel Centre in London.

My reasons for not going in the past have tended to focus on the size of the show - I have to fight through crowds of people commuting to and from work all week so doing the same at the weekend is not something I am enthusiastic about - and the overall cost of the day. Drive up and park for the day and buy your ticket in advance and bang - £30 gone already, not to mention the cost of the petrol so call it £40 all in. I am by no means tight but that is a big chunk of money when you factor in the inevitable trade stand spend. The mention of the financials is by no means a criticism - it is just that the cost represents a big chunk of the wargaming budget that I could readily use elsewhere.

Many of my gaming friends regularly go (and in spite of the crowds and cost element - perhaps they are more dedicated than I!) and the show draws a huge amount of the 'bloggeratti' and so I have bowed to the inevitable and will be attending for my usual half a day.

I am actually really looking forward to this show - despite my usual misgivings - and so have built up a modest war chest - there are a few items I have earmarked for purchase in advance - and there is even some 'Ooh shiny' funds to hand as well.

So what is on the list then? Well I will be heading to pick up a copy of Battlegroup Torch from the Plastic Soldier Company to begin with. Peter Pig will be relieving me of some cash as, I suspect, will Dave Lanchester. Tumbling Dice will be seeing me, as will Caliver Books. Finally, I may have a mosey on by the Perrys.

I shall look forward to the legendary 'bloggers meet up' and hope to see friends old and new so if you see me say hello.

See you there.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Joined up thinking....

The picture from the original post - and although I mentioned the point about the figure size being nearer 5mm than 3mm I had not quite made the connection - for which read on....

Way back in the middle of last year I posted the following blog entry - 1/600th Thoughts and the Portable Wargame. At the time I was messing around with the Perry Travel Battle set and the Tumbling Dice 1/600th scale troops produced in support of their extensive range of aircraft.

Aside from the fact that my 'ideas' have moved on quite a lot since then I had rather neglected both of  the above. As a result of the recent man cave reorganisation the figures found themselves in close proximity to the Axis and Allies vehicle pile and I suddenly realised that there was an answer to a question I had not even asked!

The Tumbling Dice 1/600th infantry look pretty good alongside the Axis and Allies vehicles and so in one fell swoop I have solved the thorny question of how I was going to tackle this - or rather what I was going to tackle this with. I like the Tumbling Dice figures as they are really generic and can be used for just about any nation you want. In fact, I would go so far as to say they could readily be used for the Horse, Musket and Rifle era if you were not too picky on the details.

I need to plan this in a little more detail and I certainly do not have enough figures for the grand scheme of things but I reckon this is a good idea - and it would certainly look better than using the blocks alongside the vehicles.

But what of your WW2 naval project that assured everyone was coming first and had priority over everything else?

What indeed.

I have not hit a buffer with this although progress has not been anything like as fast as I would have liked. I shall be tackling the models but the rules will be shelved for the time being for a very simple reason.

Bob Cordery recently returned from a cruise and during the trip was a busy chap indeed. In fact, to use his own words it was A Productive Fortnight. With what currently has up his sleeve I have decided to hang fire with my own naval rule efforts as I am thinking that his plans to go up to 1920 will give me plenty of scope to extend them to 1945.

This is of course entirely a personal thing but as I have often said (and has been proven by others on many occasions) the core mechanisms of the entire Portable Wargame concept are so sound that any amount of tinkering can be undertaken without destroying the spirit of the rules.

It also means that I would be able to seamlessly Portable Wargame WW2 not only on land and in the air but also at sea.

I am really excited about this.